ST. AUGUSTINE'S TOWER
The first church in the village of Hackney dated to around 1275, until 1660 it was dedicated to St. Augustine but at that time it was rededicated as St. John of Jerusalem which implies a connection to the Order of St. John (the Knights Templar as they once were).
The surviving tower dates to the early 16th Century - the arms of Sir John Heron (who died in 1521) are carved into the nave. This church was gradually extended over the next 200 years and by 1741 it was 105 feet long. The clock in the church dates to 1608.
In Tudor times the proximity of Hackney to the Royal Court meant many famous people lived in the parish and it became famous for its girls' schools. When Pepys visited in 1667 he made more comment about the girls than the church. He remarked on its fine organ but added that "which we went chiefly to see was the young ladies of the schools, whereof this is great store, very pretty".
By 1789 the Church could hold 1,000 people, but this was still insufficient for the rapidly growing suburb and the following year plans were started to build a new Church close by. This would be the church known today as St.-John-at-Hackney which was completed by 1797.
Many of the monuments of the Old Church were placed in the new one and the main parts of the Church were demolished in 1798 leaving only the tower - which was needed to house the church bells until 1854 when the new church tower was underpinned to allow it to bare the weight of the bells.
The tower then became a mortuary and later still a tool shed. The local Council became responsible for the tower in 1912 and in 1983 renovations finally made the Tower safe. Since 1990 it has been possible on certain days to climb the tower to the roof.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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